Gov. Abbott Declares ‘Education Freedom’ An ‘Emergency Item,’ Demands Texas Legislature Deliver On School Choice

Gov. Abbott's Office

Mary Rooke Commentary and Analysis Writer
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Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for immediate legislative action on school choice during Thursday’s State of the State address.

Universal school choice was designated an “emergency item” during the state’s current legislative session, according to Abbott’s State of the State address.

“This issue is so vital to the future of our state I am making education freedom an emergency item this session,” Abbott stated. The “emergency item” declaration enacts a special rule in the Texas Constitution that allows the state legislature to bring bills to the floor in the first 60 days of the session when they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed. He said delivering school choice legislation is about giving Texas parents “educational freedom.”

“Without that freedom, some parents are hindered [from] being able to help their child succeed. That must change this year,” Abbott said. “The way to do that is with school choice through state-funded education savings accounts. We’ve seen them work in other states, and we’ve also seen them work right here in the state of Texas.”

“I created education savings accounts for special needs students. It worked so well a bipartisan supermajority passed it into law and are now seeking to increase funding for it,” Abbott added.

In October 2020, Abbott established targeted education funds for parents with special needs students to afford adequate education options. The Supplementary Special Education Services (SSES) program provides Texas families up to $1,500 per eligible student to purchase supplementary special education services.

Abbott called on the Texas legislature to “expand” the bill establishing SSES to include all families.

“We want to expand that program to provide every parent the ability to choose the best education option for their child,” he said. “To be perfectly clear, under this school choice program, all public schools will be fully funded for every student.”

Texas House Democrats denounced Abbott’s school choice program and promised to fight against the effort in a letter released before the state address.

“If passing private school vouchers is Governor Abbott’s dream, then House Democrats will be his nightmare. Period,” they stated.

“Texas Republicans will preach school choice, but let’s be clear about the choices they’re leaving public school parents: 19% less funding for public education, 66% of teachers considering leaving the profession,” the Texas House Democrats tweeted after Abbott’s speech.

Republican Texas state Rep. Brian Harrison told the Daily Caller he is “excited to get to work” after Abbott declared school choice an emergency item in this session. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Texas Republicans Ask All School Districts To Immediately Leave Texas Association Of School Boards)

“Gov. Abbott is exactly right to make empowering all Texas parents with school choice an emergency item,” Harrison said.

“It is going to be an uphill climb to defeat the stranglehold liberal teacher unions and taxpayer funded-lobbying organizations – who oppose every single conservative value Texans hold dear – have over legislation, and we need every minute of this session to make sure parents prevail,” he added. “It’s why I asked him to add it to his list. I’m excited to get to work making Texas look like Texas again.”